Italy vs. England Euro Final Odds & Picks
Last Time Out:
Italy drew 1-1 with Spain and advanced on penalties; England defeated Denmark 2-1 in extra time.
Italy defeated England 2-1 on June 14, 2014, at Arena de Amazonia in Manaus, Brazil, at the 2014 World Cup.
About the Matchup:
It's all come down to the championship match, as the best two defensive sides in the tournament have outlasted everyone else to reach the finals. Italy looked to be on the back foot for much of the match against Spain, but the Italian defense was steel when it needed to be and emerged with a win in penalties. England, meanwhile, controlled most of the match and got a bit of good fortune when the ref awarded them a penalty in extra time, making the difference in the final scoreline.
The sides have only ever met twice at the Euros, and both times, Italy has emerged triumphant. In fact, the Three Lions have never scored on Italy at the Euros, losing 1-0 in 1980 in the group stage and falling on penalties in the quarterfinals in 2012 after playing out a scoreless draw. Only once has England ever gotten the better of the Azzurri in a competitive fixture that coming during qualifying for the 1978 World Cup. But England also hasn't been in a major tournament final since 1966, a triumph they earned after giving up just one goal en route to the final. This Three Lions side plays defense every bit as well as the 1966 squad, which should make for an intriguing final.
After everything Italy has been through since its last true moment of soccer glory in 2006, it would have been easy for the Azzurri to blink. Prior to the semifinals, Italy hadn't seen much of anything resembling success in 15 years, going from stubbing its toe against Slovakia at the 2010 World Cup to getting embarrassed by Spain in the 2012 Euro final to failing to even qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
But this Italian side is different. Roberto Mancini has made Italy into a defensive whiz that can attack when the moment is right, and it's largely because of that mindset that the Italians have never trailed in the tournament. Against Spain, Italy finally ran into an opponent who was not afraid of its skill and would not let them see much of the ball, and the Italians held firm, waiting for their moment and striking when it came.
Possession won't be as big a factor against England as it was against Spain, but patience will still be key for Mancini's charges. England will give up shots, but most teams find that they aren't quality shots. Usually, a team only gets two or three quality chances a match against England, and the Italians have to make sure they can cash in when the moment comes.
England finally got the chance to respond to adversity against Denmark, and the Three Lions came through in a big way. England found itself trailing for the first time in the tournament when the Danes finally broke through with a free-kick, but they trailed for just nine minutes before taking advantage of a Danish miscue and equalizing.
That's the good news. The bad news is that Italy represents a big step up from anything England has seen in this tournament so far. There's an argument for England having the advantage because the Three Lions didn't get beat up and should be fresher for going through the soft underbelly of the bottom half of the bracket, but Italy also likely feels more confident after going through Belgium and Spain as opposed to Ukraine and Denmark.
The big question for the Three Lions is whether their recent progression in attack carries over to facing the best defense they've seen yet. Harry Kane has really stepped up in the knockout stage, putting home four goals, but he's also never played in a match of this magnitude in his career for either club or country, which could add a new level of pressure.
Dan's Score Prediction:
Both of these teams have already played out one scoreless draw in this tournament, and this looks like it could be a second. With how both pride themselves on defense, I think one goal decides this match, and I think it comes in extra time. For the actual match itself over 90 minutes, I'm going to back a scoreless draw at +500.